Young people with asthma are about twice as likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders than are children without asthma, according to the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study—the first to show a strong connection between the respiratory condition and depressive disorders—was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Group Health Cooperative, and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Out of 1,300 youths surveyed, about 16% of the asthmatic patients had depressive or anxiety disorders, while only 9% of nonasthmatic patients had such disorders. When controlling for other possible variables, youth with asthma were almost twice as likely to have such depressive or anxiety disorders as the nonasthmatic group.

"The primary care system is correctly identifying only about 40% of the cases in which children with asthma also have a psychiatric disorder,” said Wayne Katon, MD, PhD, professor and vice-chair of psychiatry at the UW School of Medicine, and corresponding author of the study. Katon called for improved screening that will detect asthma and depression disorders at the same time.

Researchers also found that female respondents were at a greater risk of depressive and anxiety disorders—as were youth living in a single-parent household, those with recent asthma diagnoses, and those with more impairment in asthma-related physical health.